Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, April 1, 7am-4pm
The boys and I were up bright (relative term) and early at 6am this morning. It’s festival day, and I strive to be there early to beat the crowds. The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, the world’s largest single day maple syrup festival (recognized by the Guinness Book of Records), attracts big crowds…over 60,000 people some years! If you don’t want to be lining up for hours, you learn to get there at 7am.
I first experienced the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival as a young child. My mom booked us on the train from Waterloo, another first, and even got me my own conductors hat. While I only have vague memories of the event, I had that hat for years. My kids have been going since they were wee ones too. We don’t get out every year (shift work can put a cramp in my style), but when it lands on my day off, you can count on us being there! My oldest insists we go, regardless of the weather.
Heading off to the festival
The festival is in it’s 52 year this year, and they really have everything down to a fine science. Parking is on the outskirts of town, and everybody boards a tractor drawn hay wagon for the short (but brisk!) ride into the heart of downtown. After picking up your “map to the stars“, we make a beeline for the Pancake tents. Organized lines direct you to place your order and pay (cash, or debit/credit is accepted), then carry on to the heart of the operation…two large tents, manned by cheery volunteers. Hot, fresh pancakes (from a secret festival recipe) are cooked on the griddle in front of your eyes, then drowned in local maple syrup. This year’s honours for official maple syrup provider is Maple Tap Farm, and we brought home a hefty 4L jug.
After devouring the delicious pancakes and sausage, it’s off to Old MacDonald’s Farm, a makeshift barn/petting zoo, where the boys have always enjoyed meeting animals we rarely get to see, living our city life. Baby chicks, horses, calf, sheep, lambs, donkeys, bunnies, and even some curious alpacas draw crowds of little ones. I can tell the boys are outgrowing the novelty, mostly humouring me and my nostalgia, but my youngest still gave me a cursory photo op running through the hay maze (even though is is head and shoulders above the top of the bails). It’s a little sad for me, seeing how fast they grow, how they are outgrowing this stage of childhood.
Food, Drink, Music and Entertainment
We then meandered down Arthur St, taking in all the local vendors, selling their wares. One booth that peaked my interest this year was TreeWell, sampling their Saperatif sparkling maple sap. It reminded me of a non-alcoholic sparkling ice wine. Very unique and tasty! More artists, craft makers, and even some great music, interspersed with all manor of food available lined the street. Sausages, turkey legs, funnel cakes, tornado potatoes, baked goods galore! Maple is the theme, so you can count on an array of available maple infused treats!
What the heck is Maple Taffy?
One thing is for sure, you never leave hungry! This year we indulged in pretzels, poutine, and maple sugar candy. We then stopped to watch my favourite being made…maple taffy! Maple syrup is boiled down over the fire, then when just right, it’s poured into little puddles on snow, and rolled up on a popsicle stick. Volunteers actually had to collect the snow just outside of town over a month ago, and store it in the freezer, to ensure they had snow to make the taffy this year (it’s been relatively mild, and our last big snow melted weeks ago).
Laden down with our 4L jug of syrup, we boarded our wagon back to the car. Another successful, enjoyable year for us, and we were back home warming up before 10am! If you’re local, you still have time to catch the festivities, on today, April 1 until 4pm. And no, this is no April Fool’s joke…enjoy!